Tennessee bill would allow retail sales of marijuana

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In this Aug. 15, 2019, file photo, marijuana grows at an indoor cannabis farm in Gardena, Calif. The Justice Department is moving forward to expand the number of marijuana growers for federally-authorized cannabis research. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — State Sen. Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis) filed legislation Friday that would allow retail sales of marijuana in Tennessee, with a 12% tax designated to education and infrastructure.

SB 1849 would open the state up to marijuana growers, provided they have a license to do so, a business license and follow local zoning regulations, and it would allow sales of less than one-half ounce to consumers aged 21 and up at retail locations in compliance with local zoning.

Half the revenue from the 12% tax would be earmarked for education, with 30% to infrastructure and 20% to the state’s general fund. A spokesman in Akbari’s office Friday said an analysis of projected revenues from the bill was not yet available.

The spokesman said Akbari’s bill would benefit both public education and Tennessee farmers hurt by tariffs under the Trump administration’s rules, while bringing Tennessee in line with other states that allow retail marijuana sales.

The bill is not scheduled for debate and no companion legislation has been filed in the House.

State regulators would be responsible for creating policy for commercial sales of marijuana.

Akbari said in a statement that she felt the bill would stop wasting tax dollars on “failed drug policies,” and create economic and educational opportunities in the state.

“Tennessee’s tough on crime possession laws have trapped too many of our citizens in cycles of poverty and they haven’t actually stopped anyone from obtaining marijuana,” Akbari said in a statement. “The enforcement of these laws in particular have cost our state billions, contributed to a black market that funds criminal organizations, and accelerated the growth of incarceration in Tennessee’s jails and prisons. Tennesseans deserve better.”

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